Giving back through consuming

Charities have been a topic of discussion for some time, as people are unsure of whether or not the money will actually end up where it is supposed to. A number of credible charities have been shown to really make a difference, and people have been eager to give them a substantial amount of money. For people that do not have a lot of money to spend but still want to feel like they make a difference there is a website called goededoelshop.

Goede doel shop

By using this website people can make purchases on websites and a portion of the price will be donated to the charity of your choosing. Normally the webhost will retain this portion (which is also called affiliate marketing) but through the collaboration with this website they have agreed to relinguish it to these charities. The Goededoelshop is obligated to hand over a minimum of 80% to these charities, the rest of which is used to cover the costs of the website and compensate those maintaining it.

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Behomm, the home swapping community


Home swapping as a way to celebrate your summer weeks has been done for many years. Lately this type of vacation has become popular with the crowd. With an increased interest new initiatives arise, just as Behomm. Agusti Juste and Eva Calduch started Behomm a year ago out of dissatisfaction about the traditional home swapping websites. “You spend too much time scanning all the houses and rejecting people that have a completely different lifestyle and home” they said. As graphical designers they wondered why not to set up their own home swapping community JUST for creative people: Behomm was born!

The first 300 members consisted of friends and family of Augusti and Eva who received a lifelong membership in exchange for sending out invitations to their friends. As said only creative people are eligible to receive an invitation, for that reason the website holds a ‘professions list’ that indicates what is understood by this term. All sorts of designers to art museum managers to make up artists are welcome. Only an invitation will lead to access to the website which makes Behomm a private online community. To go even further, Augusti and Eva (try to) meet all new members; having a coffee or diner with potential members, everything to be sure that they fit the community. You can say that Behomm has already become a success. Within a year it reached 702 members in Europe and the Americas.


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Adopt a Priest !

You have certainly heard about it, the Catholic Church is in decline in most western european countries. Less and less believers go to the office on Sunday and the figures are even worse for the seminarians – the “students” to be priest. As a consequence, less and less donations are made for the restauration of the roofs, the payment of the priests, …

Three dioceses in Normandy (France) have decided to use crowfunding to fill their empty buckets. They just launched this Friday “Adopte un curé” (adopt a priest) as a parody of the dating site Adopt a guy.

Adopt a guy is a french dating site (Adopte un Mec) that “gives power to women” and enables them to pick up their prince charming like in the supermarket. Guys that would like to meet a nice french girl register on the website, set up an account and wait till the women of their dream send him a message. This platform has gained more and more popularity in the past few years, especially since they opened a temporary boutique in Paris where women could go and do their shopping. The marketing stunt proved to be extremely efficient as even the BBC came to the aptly name street of happiness in Paris to do a report of the phenomenon (see here). Soon a british, and later a german website emerged.


“Ladies, find great deals at the supermarket of love” 

Inspired by this successful marketing action, the three norman dioceses decided to apply these concepts to the church, in a nice parody.

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Do you speak alien language?

Don’t you feel pain while watching your favorite sci-fi movies or series the alien talk with their weird language for 3 minutes and you just don’t have any clue on what you just missed? Or when watching your long waited action movie and the actors speak in 5 different languages for the whole 2 hours? On this point you might just hope that there’s a website where you can easily search for a subtitle for every film you watch. Well, there is! Just go to where you can type in the title of the movies or series along with the type of codec, resolution, etc (basically just copy the name of the file) and it will gives you the link to download the subtitle for the language of your choice.


Who uploads the file?

Subscene uses crowdsourcing to provide the content, every registered user can create and upload his/her own subtitle which later on will be available for public. Other users (either unregistered or registered) who already downloaded and tried the file are allowed to give numerical ratings and/or verbal reviews (1) to the particular file. In the subtitle details you can see how many people voted the file as good and how many voted as bad and also how the number of downloads. These features will definitely enable you to pick one of the most reliable file from a number of choice.

Where does the money come from?

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BlaBlaCar or how to travel for cheap

BlaBlaCarTable 1 shows the prices we would have paid for the following one-way trips if we made them a few years age. However nowadays, it is possible to do the same trips for much cheaper prices (table 1). Why? Because since 2006 there is a new company called BlaBlaCar that allows traveling at very low costs, by using the empty seats in the cars of people, who are doing the same trip with their car. In exchange of taking passengers, the driver gets paid to cover the travel costs.

table1BlaBlaCar is present in 12 European countries and it is continuing to expand. The company has a 100% growth rate/y over the last 4 years, more than 1 million passengers travelling by using this company every month, the estimated costs savings are about €100 millions every year for all the drivers that are registered on their website. By founding the company, Frédéric MAZZELLA did not only seek for profit; one of his main concerns was to find a way to reduce pollution. Thanks to BlaBlaCar, the average occupancy rate of the cars that belong to the members of BlaBlaCar is around 3 vs 1,6 for the European average level. In consequence, it reduced the CO2 emissions by 700 000 tons.

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GemShare – The trustworthy recommendation agent

Finding the best restaurant in town is not easy. Therefore a vast number of applications and websites provide services to facilitate the search. The “online urban guide” and business review site Yelp is the most popular among them. It uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews for its users and to help them connect with local businesses. Like most other recommendation websites, it combines numerical ratings with textual reviews. Yelp contains over 57 million local reviews and attracts around 130 million users monthly.

Companies are aware of the power of word-of-mouth. Online user reviews have become an increasingly important source of information for consumers. However, when it comes to more personal local services such as finding a trustworthy craftsman, lawyer, or the most competent physiotherapist online recommendation websites like Yelp are only used as a last resort. „People don’t go to Yelp for doctors or lawyers because of trust issues“, says Mohit, the founder of GemShare. „Positive reviews from strangers don’t guarantee that you, too, will value what is likely a very personalized and intimate experience.“ Besides the relevance of taste and trust for these services, people are also aware of fraud within online recommendation systems. Especially local services that are not used by a sufficient quantity of people to obtain the wisdom-of-the-crowd-effect, reviews and ratings can easily be manipulated by self-ratings of companies.

The alternative to the time-consuming and sometimes untrustworthy use of common online recommendation platforms is to ask the own personal network for advice, but even with all our social networks and technical devices, this approach can also be time-consuming and frustrating.


GemShare, launched in April, 2014, is a recommendation platform and application that focuses on trust and personal recommendations to solve this issue. “We have several members who have said two thumbs up from a friend is worth more than 40-star reviews,” says Mohit. Users create their own trusted network of friends and like-minded people, via Facebook, Gmail, or phone contacts, for the specific purpose of finding out where to find the best service.

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Crowdfunding – Last resort for high quality online journalism?

“Online journalism is dead”. This statement is the driving idea behind the business model of the German online magazine Krautreporter. A paradox?

Today many websites are exclusively financed by online advertisements. Google, the most visited website in the world, provides its services to the Internet users for free. Revenues are exclusively generated from advertisers who are interested in reaching out to the online users. Today Google is one of the most valuable companies in the world. Virtually no website misses the chance to broach the lucrative source of online advertisements. Websites with the highest click rates generate the highest profits, since advertisers are willing to pay premium prices for increased reach. In general there is nothing wrong with it. But how about non-commercial Internet content?

Freedom of the press is a crucial element of each democracy. This freedom mostly implies the absence of interference from overreaching states. Public opinion should be shaped by unbiased information. Online journalism, the distribution of editorial content via the Internet, is increasingly suppressing traditional print media and has democratized the flow of information. Today any content can be found online at no charge; therefore print media sales are falling. To ensure sustained revenue, publishing companies are using the previously described business model, by running advertisements on their websites, on which they also display their journalistic content.

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An Unexpected Application of Crowdfunding

Nowadays, the crowdfunding has become a very accessible and common way for start-up firms to raise substantial initial funding to launch new innovative business ideas. However, the use of crowdfunding practices seems not to be attractive to start-ups only. Indeed, crowdfunding practices start to be incorporated at the root of new innovative business models, for instance in the real estate industry. Here is an illustration of how building house companies can effectively benefit from crowdfunding uses with the presentation of a real case launched in 2014.

The crowdfunding platformTo begin with, it is important to distinguish two different business models in the house building industry, since the crowdfunding can only be relevant within one of the two. The first business model consists of the situation when the firm already have a certain client and is creating a project especially tailored to the client’s requests and budget. Since the client is paying as the construction goes on, the firm uses directly this entry of money to cover the construction costs and typically does not need any extra funds. The second business model is the situation where the firm undertakes the construction of a house on an acquired land, without having any clients prior to the construction. When the construction is finished, the firm put the house on sale on the regular market. This latter business model required construction firms to raise funds themselves to cover the costs throughout the construction phase. The firms typically use to issue debt to raise funds for such common projects. An interesting alternative to debt consists of the crowdfunding. One of the lead pioneers in this practice is Blavier, a Belgian company that has recently launched its own crowdfunding platform called ConseilB+. Here is how it works in practice.

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Bullying among the GoodReads reviews?

With approximately 25 million members, 750 million books and 29 million reviews, the numbers look definitely impressive for GoodReads. Launched in 2007, GoodReads is at the moment, the most popular online platform for book recommendations and reviews. However, not all benefits are for everyone. The members have access to a lot more information. Apart from the opportunity to read the community reviews –a feature that the visitors have also access to – the website offers personalized book recommendations based on each member’s “bookshelves” which include the books that the member has or is planning to read.


Nonetheless, you cannot but wonder how did GoodReads accomplish such a growth within 7 years? It can be argued that one of the main reasons why GoodReads managed to survive is because some individuals return repeatedly and invest energy in the ongoing conversation (Bateman, Gray and Butler 2011, Bagozzi and Dholakia 2002, Lee and Cole 2003). For each book genre, you can identify consistent reviewers who, most of the time, are also popular bloggers. The platform assists the interaction within the members and tries to help achieve the perfect fit as you are not only allowed to “add as a friend” and follow the reviews of a fellow member but also have access to the member’s bookshelves. In addition, the authors -the contemporary ones, as it would be at least weird if James Joyce was participating in discussions and replied to comments – can connect with the readers.

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A social life and good looks – what could you want more?

This is a message to all women and men out there who appreciate beauty, confidence, friendship, happiness and … large breasts. Uhm, what I mean is grace, spirit, joy and … curvy appearances. No, sorry, let’s try again: I’m referring to elegance, communities, wellbeing and … a generous bust. OK, OK, I know you’re impatient so I’ll tell you what the message I’m trying to send is:
– if you’re a woman and you feel that nature has been unfair with you by giving you ‘small’ assets, you are ambitious and hard working (but yet still broke) and you want to make friends; or
– if you’re a man and you love delicacy, allure and style, you have some dimes to spare and you maybe feel a bit lonely and want to network
then you have to visit the ultimate social networking/crowdfunding website! Sounds fancy, right?

Well, on a more serious note, is a platform designed to facilitate the relationship between ‘ladies’ – women that want to have breast augmentation surgery, ‘contributors’  – people (mostly men) that donate money to help the ladies realize their dream and ‘surgeons’ – plastic surgery surgeons that take on the challenge to help the ladies. The site works in mysterious ways but mostly like this: women set up a small profile with their name, birthday and several pictures and choose their goal (i.e. their budget and surgeon). Continue reading A social life and good looks – what could you want more?


Most of us are part of the Instagram bandwagon; guilty of filling up our friends feeds with pictures of our cats, sunsets, selfies and of every meal we eat with an excess use of filters. Then comes along VSCO Cam, made for professional photographers in mind. The app is now in android and iOS and is called a photo-publishing platform unlike its counterpart. VSCO Cam puts the art of photography above the social aspect of the app and still man   to penetrate a large market beyond just professional photographers. The creators of the app, a couple from the design industry, are creative in the true sense of the word more focused on the art of photography than building marketing phenomena around their product. The mobile platform offers a range of free presets and editing tools for their user that emulates mobile photos into film quality and offer advanced editing tools for different prices. The app itself is beautifully designed whilst being user-friendly and having an ultra sleek interface.


In many ways, VSCO Grid is an anti-social social network. You can’t leave comments, you can’t click a heart icon or “like” something. What you can do is follow photographers whose work you admire. Discovery is curated, not automated. VSCO Cam doesn’t shy away from the social perspective entirely though ensuring that users can create a grid of their photos and share it on Twitter, Facebook as well as Instagram. What is interesting to note is that when a photos edited using VSCO is shared, #vscocam is automatically added making sure the world knows who is responsible for the film quality of a digital photo. VSCO Cam goes beyond just creating and selling editing products on the platform but enables users to create a ‘journal’.It’s a stunning, visual blog that’s been carefully curated by the VSCO team to showcase how a variety of photographers from all over the world use their tools. Continue reading #vscocam

ShopAdvisor – The value of information

In the stock market the value and the quality of information is very important. Even if the prices of the stock are unpredictable, past trends and information can help people, especially financiers, to take decision about buying or selling stocks. Information regarding price behavior can be very useful not only to buy or sell stocks, but also for buying other kind of products, not related with the stock market. This information can help people making decisions about buying a product.

Often when you discover a product you are not ready to buy it, because you do not know if the price you are going to pay is fair or simply because you do not have enough money to buy it.

How can you be sure you are making the right decision when buying a product or how can you know that a product is within your budget?

Well, there is an application for your tablet or your mobile phone that can answer to both questions. With ShopAdvisor “consumer’s simply “watch” products they discover and like, and they are saved to one convenient list, accessible anytime, anywhere. Later, when the time is right, ShopAdvisor reminds them – on their phone, in their email, on their tablet. That sweater is finally available in retail. That TV price is finally within your budget. That designer is offering a sample of their new fragrance” (Shop Advisor, 2014) (see Figure 1).

la foto 3

Figure 1. ShopAdvisor tutorial.

Besides the alert ShopAdvisor sent you when a product is finally within the budget is also shows you the price behavior of the product since it was launched (See Figure 2). Using this information you can make see if the actual price is a good deal or not. If it is a good deal and you are interested in buying the product ShopAdvisor will show which stores are selling the product and it will redirect you to the one you are interested, in this way retailers are benefited from the app as well. Continue reading ShopAdvisor – The value of information

Recommendation Agent 2.0

Just like Don Corleone in the epic Godfather movie, the folks at Washington-based e-commerce giant Amazon are about to make offers to their business partners, the company hopes they can’t refuse. That the firm, like Corleone, relies on ‘capos’ to enforce these offers, can be doubted, but they have a treasure the Mafia never possessed. Amazon’s immense knowledge about their business partners, generated from all sorts of data, takes the firm to a stage where it plans to rely a huge part of its channel domain on its recommendation system. But let me explain.

After establishing overnight delivery years ago and the introduction of the ‘drone delivery service’ last summer, the firm filed a patent in January with the bulky name ‘anticipatory shipping’. The idea behind it could revolutionize the e-commerce environment. According to the system is the next ‘step towards cutting out human agency entirely from the e-commerce roundabout’ (1). When set up properly the automated collaborative filtering algorithm will learn from the behavior of registered consumers and anticipate what they could possibly be interested in, before the consumers themselves think about it. When matched with a specific product, Amazon plans to wrap the item and send it towards the potential customers before an order has been placed. This means slashing down shipping time by relying on clients’ historical buying patterns, preferences expressed via surveys, demographic data, but also browsing habits, wish-lists and even mouse movements (1). Essentially, the system entirely outsources the consumers’ shopping experience and direct communication with Amazon on basis of an online recommendation agent.

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Zopa: P2P Lending


 Zopa is the oldest p2p lending community on the web and currently the largest operating in Europe. It started its activities in 2005 and since then it has dramatically increased the money lent per year ( in 2013 £195 million were lent).

The idea behind Zopa is extremely simple, a platform in which people can lend and borrow a certain amount of money. The reason behind its success lies in the way in which it differentiates from traditional competitors -banks- and several similar websites. Essentially, Zopa can offer something better than traditional banks since it provides faster evaluation of creditors and this results in an overall faster process. Creditors can actually start a loan process from mobile and the amount of time requested is far lower than what traditional banks ask to a possible borrower .On the other hand, Zopa can offer something better to people willing to borrow money – for a period of 3 or 5 years- than traditional banks since it offers interests that no traditional bank can match (currently Zopa provides to investors a 5.3% interest pre-tax) .

However, Zopa also has to compete with several other companies offering similar services on the internet. On this matter the power of Zopa has been its reliability, in fact using its own algorithm system it has had until now a very low default rate of creditors – 0.7% – and the policy of the website establishes that the amount of money each investor decides to invest it is always split in amount of £10 or 20 so that the risk is differentiated among the creditors. Moreover Zopa created a Safeguard fund able to refund every investor in the unlikely event of a borrower unable to pay, this fund represents 1.5 % of the total amount lent on the website in a year.  Continue reading Zopa: P2P Lending